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NUTRIENT CONTROLS ON NITROGEN UPTAKE AND METABOLISM BY NATURAL POPULATIONS AND CULTURES OF TRICHODESMIUM (CYANOBACTERIA)

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* Author for correspondence: e-mail mmulholl@odu.edu.

Abstract

The effects of inorganic nutrient (ammonium [NH4+] and nitrate [NO3]) and amino acid (glutamate [glu] and glutamine [gln]) additions on rates of N2 fixation, N uptake, glutamine synthetase (GS) activity, and concentrations of intracellular pools of gln and glu were examined in natural and cultured populations of Trichodesmium. Additions of 1 μM glu, gln, NO3, or NH4+ did not affect short-term rates of N2 fixation. This may be an important factor that allows for continued N2 fixation in oligotrophic areas where recycling processes are active. N2 fixation rates decreased when nutrients were supplied at higher concentrations (e.g. 10 μM). Uptake of combined N (NH4+, NO3, and amino acids) by Trichodesmium was stimulated by increased concentrations. For NO3, proportional increases in NO3 uptake and decreases in N2 fixation were observed when additions were made to cultures before the onset of the light period. GS activity did not change much in response to the addition of NH4+, NO3, glu, or gln. GS is necessary for N metabolism, and the bulk of this enzyme pool may be conserved. Intracellular pools of glu and gln varied in response to 10 μM additions of NH4+, glu, or gln. Cells incubated with NH4+ became depleted in intracellular glu and enriched with intracellular gln. The increase in the gln/glu ratio corresponded to a decrease in the rate of N2 fixation. Although the gln/glu ratio decreased in cells exposed to the amino acids, there was only a corresponding decrease in N2 fixation after the gln addition. The results presented here suggest that combined N concentrations on the order of 1 μM do not affect rates of N2 fixation and metabolism, although higher concentrations (e.g. 10 μM) can. Moreover, these effects are exerted through products of NH4+ assimilation rather than exogenous N, as has been suggested for other species. These results may help explain how cultures of Trichodesmium are able to simultaneously fix N2 and take up NH4+ and how natural populations continue to fix N2 once combined N concentrations increase within a bloom.

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